Flag by skeeze, Kaepernick by Brook Ward
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Kap) refused to stand for the national anthem in a preseason game against Green Bay. It wasn’t the first time he refused to stand, but the other times went unnoticed.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he explained afterward. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
The star player specifically cited the shooting of blacks by police, including a recent fatal shooting in Milwaukee. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said.
Kaepernick is not required by the NFL or the 49ers to stand during the national anthem. But many people have criticized his sitdown protest, and even took to burning jerseys with his name and number. Others have come around to supporting his right to do what he did.
As CSNBayArea.com reported, Kaepernick explained his position in a players-only meeting on Sunday morning, after last Friday’s game. Team center Daniel Kilgore, who is white, said he initially took offense to Kaepernick’s action, but gained a new understanding after listening to him explain why he felt the need to take a stand—actually a sit—against racial injustice.
“In seeing his point of view, it does help,” Kilgore said.
“I don’t agree with him not standing up for the national anthem, but I do respect and acknowledge the fact that he has the right to decide what he wants to do.”
I sit with Kap. I do not stand for the national anthem at sporting events or elsewhere. I sit quietly in protest. I refuse to ignore the “pink elephant” of racism and inequality so pervasive in this country. I do not deny that things are better in 2016 than when I was born in 1957, but change has been slow in coming, and we still live in a largely segregated society. To this day, I am frequently mistaken for other black people who look nothing like me.
So instead of being offended and reacting to Kap’s protest, we should emulate his teammates in trying to understand where he is coming from. He is giving voice to the voiceless. He is speaking for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and the countless other black and brown folks who are killed by the police every year.
Thank you, Kap, for your peaceful protest in drawing attention to this issue for human rights and social justice.
Elizabeth Ann Thompson is a freelance writer in Oakland, California.